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Helping the Terrorists Recruit

There is more terrorism in the news, this time in London. So how do the British politicians respond?

They do a recruitment ad for more terrorists.

They start by giving the terrorists cool labels, such as “Islamic extremists.” Do you know what sounds like an awesome club for an angry young Muslim to join? I’m thinking “Islamic Extremist” sound about right. That branding should be great for recruitment.

The media also helps terror recruitment with their wall-to-wall news about the terrorists’ successes. Every time they mention the body count, the bad guys cheer.

A better approach for the media, if they want to be helpful, might involve inviting a continuous line of Muslim scholars and critics  to talk about how these “gullible losers” were duped by ISIS to kill themselves and spend eternity in Hell. And we need lots of visual and other persuasion about Hell. I want Photoshopped images of the terrorists burning for eternity. I want descriptions of the smells, tastes, and sounds they are experiencing, so the next “lone wolf” has something to contrast with the 72 virgin story. Let’s put some doubt into that mix. Fear is a good persuader.

I also wonder why the families of terrorists are not being flooded with condolence messages from Muslim clerics saying they are sorry about their kid burning in Hell for eternity. Be sincere about it. Include some digital representation of Hell in those cards and letters.

Change the frame.

You might enjoy reading my book in the safety of your home because traveling is dangerous.

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An Example of Cognitive Dissonance

What the heck is “climate denial”? Is that even a thing?

I mentioned on Periscope the other day that I created a Sunday comic as a cognitive dissonance trap. I wanted to see if I could make an argument about the reliability of ECONOMIC models and dupe irrational people into labelling me a climate denier. 

As you can see below, the experiment worked as planned. Notice the excerpt below leaves out the part of the comic that mentions ECONOMIC models.

I know many of you don’t believe I planned this as a cognitive dissonance trap. But I did. If I do something like this again, I’ll call it out for you in advance so you can follow the experiment.

My hypothesis (to myself) was that i could make a public argument about the reliability of ECONOMIC models, and partisans on the climate debate would not be able to see the word ECONOMIC on the page. Literally.

If you see the word ECONOMIC in the comic (twice), you probably can’t find anything objectionable about the point of it. Both sides of the debate would agree that you need an economic model to make a decision. And both sides would agree that no such credible model exists. 

Science tries to tell you what is true, as best it can. Economics tells you how one true thing COMPARES to another true thing on cost. Those are very different models. For example, science might tell you the sea level will rise by three inches. But you need an economic model to decide whether spending money to address that problem is better than spending money to fix other problems. If you leave out the other options for spending your limited money, you have done no decision-making analysis whatsoever.

No scientist would disagree with what I just said. Likewise, no scientist who sees the word “ECONOMIC” in my comic would find anything with which to disagree. The only way you can disagree with the comic is to (literally) hallucinate that it says something other than what it says. And that’s what happened. As I predicted.

The trigger for cognitive dissonance is this:

1. Climate scientists are 100% sure they are right.

2. My comic explains that no credible decision-making models (economic models) exist. 

3. Climate scientists reading my comic realize they haven’t done the work necessary to make their case to the public because science is only the first step. Economics is the tool you need for policy-setting and decision-making. And the economics of climate change – which would necessarily compare all spending options for our limited money – haven’t been modeled in any credible way. 

4. Given this set-up, a climate scientist would either need to admit that his or her career-defining opinions about climate policy are incomplete (at best), or the scientist must spontaneously generate an illusion that masks the words ECONOMIC in my comic. In other words, climate alarmists experiencing a state of cognitive dissonance can read that comic ten times and not remember seeing the word ECONOMIC when done. I mean that literally. The word ECONOMIC will be mentally invisible to anyone in this cognitive dissonance trap.

Try showing this comic to a climate alarmist friend and see how well the trap works. Look for your friend to fight like a wounded weasel to avoid talking about ECONOMIC models. And watch how quickly you get labelled a “climate denier.”

As if that is even a thing.


You might enjoy reading my book because science.

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Betting on Climate Change

Did you notice the stock market rising sharply after President Trump announced he would pull out of the Paris Climate Accord and – according to CNN – destroy the entire planet? Markets are irrational, but still, it’s hard to reconcile a decision to destroy civilization with a rise in investor confidence.

What should I make of the fact so many citizens say global warming is an existential danger while the people who have money are (apparently) betting against it? How does that make sense?

One way it makes sense is that markets move for lots of different reasons. But in my experience, a sharp move in the markets timed to a political action is like an instant vote of thumbs-up or thumbs-down on the decision. Apparently, leaving the Paris Accord was a thumbs-up for investors.

And so I give you this hypothesis: There is social pressure to say you side with the majority of climate scientists. To do otherwise would make many people feel like ignoramuses. So they craft their personalities around a belief in climate change doom because they are people who respect science. It fits their identity preference.

Until you ask them to invest their money.

Then people bet against it.

Here I’m not talking about every person. I’m talking about a tendency for some members of a group to be frictionless-only members. As soon as you give them friction – such as a financial risk – some (not all) climate alarmists might become climate skeptics. 

That’s just a hypothesis. 

Another hypothesis is that markets are short-sighted. But how much short-term benefit does the entire economy get from leaving the Paris Accords? I haven’t seen the argument for it helping directly in the next quarter or two, except in terms of optimism for the long-term.

And yet another hypothesis is that the people who have extra money to invest have a different view of climate risks than people who don’t have money. And that could be because the investor class is either smarter or dumber on this topic, on average, than non-investors. 

All of this makes me wonder why there isn’t a more robust betting market for climate change predictions. Folks could bet on sea level changes and temperature averages using some agreed standard for measurement. That way, the climate alarmists can hedge against the economic catastrophe they see coming, at least for their own families. Given the certainty of climate scientists, I would think the people betting on their side would be making easy money. Those winnings could help offset the higher expenses caused by climate disruption. 

Apparently, bad versions of the betting market idea already exist, or did exist at one time. I’m sure you’ll tell me about others. But the lack of a big-time betting market in this space tells me there wouldn’t be enough bets on one side of the topic to make a market.

I wonder which side that would be.

Disclosure: My current view on climate science is that the climate scientists are probably right on the basic science, and their climate models are probably directionally right too. But no one has created a credible economic model around climate change. Until you have a long-term economic model that you can trust, you have no way to know what to do about climate change or when to do it. The climate science models don’t tell you any of that. They aren’t designed for that. If you want to make rational decisions about climate change economic risks, you need credible long-term economic models, not climate models.

On a related note, there’s no such thing as a credible long-term economic model. It isn’t a thing.

You might enjoy reading my book because the alternative is drowning in iceberg water and polar bear tears.

I’m also on…

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The Kathy Griffin Controversy

Comedian Kathy Griffin got into some hot water for a staged photo of herself holding a realistic-looking severed head that looks like President Trump. I won’t reproduce the photo here. It is disturbing. People asked me what it all means in terms of persuasion, if anything. I’ll tell you.

Disclosure: Kathy Griffin played the voice of the Alice in my old Dilbert TV show on UPN. I like Kathy, both personally and professionally. I’m a fan. Feel free to factor in my bias when you read this post.

The fascinating part of the story is that Griffin and at least one photographer thought this photo would be provocative but within bounds. The Internet quickly informed them they were wrong. Griffin issued a video apology that some people judge to be insincere. But it looked 100% sincere to me.

I have been telling you since before the inauguration that the country was going to split into two movies on one screen. Some of us are watching a new president do his best to make America great. But half the country is watching a disaster movie in which we unknowingly elected a Hitler-monster to destroy civilization. The Kathy Griffin situation illustrates the two-movie idea perfectly. For Kathy and her associates at the photoshoot, this photo was intentionally provocative, but in a silly way. In their movie, beheading the Hitler-monster is a widely-approved fantasy. Perfectly acceptable. Nothing to see here.

Then they published the photo.

And learned there was another movie on the same screen.

You and I get to live in the movies in our heads until your script and mine come into conflict. That’s what happened with the Griffin photo. The photo showed us with disturbing clarity that we are not experiencing the same movie. In some of our movies, Griffin literally took the side of ISIS (EviLosers) against the Commander in Chief of the United States. But in Kathy’s movie, a comedian made a provocative joke, as she often does. That’s all.

Obviously I support Griffin’s right to produce provocative and sometimes offensive art. That is part of her job. And I also respect her rapid and thorough apology. To feel otherwise about Kathy would make me one of the overly-sensitive folks I have been mocking for years. You don’t get to turn me into that person. But you can go full-snowflake on this topic if you like.

The takeaway here should not be so much about Griffin. The takeaway is that a room full of people involved in the photoshoot did not see this as a huge problem from the start. They were living a different movie. If you judge this situation to be an error of taste, judgement, intelligence, or morality, you are missing the bigger picture. The bigger picture is that the country is living two movies at the same time, and Griffin was acting “normal” in one of them. 

Persuasion-wise, Griffin’s photo was so over-the-line that I assume it ruined the movie for a lot of people following the anti-Trump script. The audience in Griffin’s movie just had a mirror held up to them. If they liked what they saw, they will stay in their seats. If they don’t like being the villains in their own movie, they might change the channel.

History might record this as the beginning of Trump’s rise in popularity. I have been predicting you will see the rise in the polls by year end.

Do you consider Kathy Griffin’s disturbing photo to be “art”? That’s a purely subjective evaluation. But Griffin did turn most Trump supporters into hypocrites by making them complain about political correctness.

If that isn’t art, you don’t know art.

You might enjoy reading my book because of all the art that isn’t in it.

I’m also on…

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By now, most of you know President Trump tweeted an unfinished message including a funny typo with the nonsense word “covfefe” late last night. He kept the tweet posted for hours while the Internet had its fun.

My hypothesis is President Trump was composing a tweet and got interrupted. Maybe he stuck his phone in his pocket and “pocket-tweeted” the typo. In any event, it was clearly accidental, as well as delightfully human.

The magic of the tweet is that covfefe is an astonishingly funny word. You couldn’t invent a funnier word if you assembled a panel of humorists and experts. But as I say, it was an accident. I also often say, “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”

President Trump apparently decided to leave his typo-tweet live for hours, as the Internet went wild with delight. If you are a Twitter user, you saw some of the best humor of the year happen late last night and this morning. 

The typo was just a mistake. But the President’s decision (I assume) to keep it posted for hours was a smart move. In movie terms, he created what writers call a “trap door” in the script. The trap door is the laugh that gives you some relief in a scary or dramatic movie. The country needed a laugh. Trump saw the opportunity created by the typo and wrote it into the script. Nicely done.

You might enjoy reading my book because covfefe.

I’m also on…

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Going After the Families of Terrorists

During the presidential campaign, President Trump famously suggested going after the families of terrorists. That would be strong persuasion. The downside is that it is also a war crime. So Trump backed off on “going after the families.”

Or did he?

On his overseas trip, Trump demanded that the Palestinians stop paying the families of dead terrorists. The president is literally “going after the families” without firing a shot.

President Trump is also “going after the families” by branding ISIS as Evil Losers. You might be proud of your son for being a Jihadist, but the Evil Loser brand isn’t bringing anything good to the family name.

Let me give you a little thought experiment. Suppose our military found a terrorist bomb-maker who supplied bombs and training to terrorists but never did a terrorist act himself. Would we be within our military, legal, and ethical boundaries to kill that bomb-maker with a drone attack?

I think all of you just said yes.

In the context of a suicide bomber, the “bomb” is two parts. One part is the human being, and the other is the mechanical/chemical bomb. The bomb-maker made the mechanical/chemical part. But the family of the terrorist might have created the rest of the bomb, at least in some cases.

So here’s the thought experiment. In the specific case where a family radicalized their own kid, and also accepted payment after the suicide attack, is that really different from being a “bomb-maker”? After all, the kid is an important part of the bomb. 

In some cases, if not most, the family has no real control over the actions of an adult child radicalized on his own. If you attack that family, you are committing a war crime for sure. That would be evil. And it would be hard to determine how much the family did to radicalize the kid.

Realistically, there is no practical way to go after the “bomb-maker” families without accidentally killing some innocent people who were minding their own business. To avoid that situation, you would need some clear, objective standard for deciding which families are “bomb-makers.” One such standard might included the family accepting the money AND making a public statement supporting their terrorist kid’s actions. 

You probably don’t want to attack a family simply because they accepted free money when offered. In a poor region, people don’t say no to free money. But if the family also makes a public statement in favor of terrorism, they are literally attempting to create more (human) bombs by popularizing the concept. 

I’m not in favor of Americans committing war crimes. But I’m okay with killing bomb-makers. Apparently I can’t have both. 

You might enjoy reading my book because it has nothing to do with my blog topic today.

I’m also on…

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The Time I Nudged Climate Scientists into Debunking their Own Models

If you have been reading this blog and following me on Periscope, you know I announced I was going to use my own powers of persuasion to nudge climate scientists into doing a better job of communicating their side of things. The climate models are the least-credible thing scientists do, and yet scientists have been using their models as their featured evidence. No matter which side you are on with the climate change debate, you don’t want either side using their weakest argument. You want both sides to do their best so we can accurately judge who has the strongest thinking. To that end, I framed the “climate models” as being necessarily incomplete because you really need economic models to decide how to react to climate change, not scientific models. And long-term economic models have zero credibility. Even scientists would agree on that point.

Evidently I applied enough persuasion to generate this video that attempts to debunk my debunking of climate models. But it does so by…devaluing their own models. That’s what I was trying to do too. We’re on the same page.

Watch the clip for the Absurd Absolute tell for cognitive dissonance that happens at ten seconds in. The scientist defines the opposition argument with the absurd absolutes “anything” and  “everything.” Whenever you see your opposition create a strawman argument with absurd absolutes, it means you won the debate. You only see this behavior when the opposition has no response to your real argument; they have to transform it into an absurd absolute in order to have any response at all.

I told you I was going to rewire this global debate exactly this way. I did this as a demonstration of the power of persuasion. 

Now, do you still think President Trump’s branding of the Losers is just name-calling?

It isn’t. 

You might enjoy reading my book because of persuasion.

I’m also on…

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Goodbye ISIS, Hello Losers

President Trump just gave ISIS its new name: Losers. (Short for Evil Losers).

If you think that’s no big deal, you’re wrong. It’s a big deal. This is – literally – weapons-grade persuasion from the most powerful Master Persuader of our time.

As I have taught you in this blog, President Trump’s clever nicknames for people are not random. They are deeply engineered for visual impact and future confirmation bias.

In this case, the visuals will be provided by future terror attacks. That reinforces the “evil” part, obviously. But more importantly, the Losers will be doing nothing but losing on the battlefield from now until “annihilation.” They are surrounded, and the clock is ticking. Oh, and the press isn’t allowed to watch the final battles. In other words, we won’t need to build new holding cells on Guantanamo Bay this time. No press means no prisoners, if you know what I mean. (American soldiers won’t be shooting the prisoners. We have allies for that sort of thing.)

As you know, “annihilation” of the Losers in Loserdom won’t stop the loser’s ideas from spreading. You still have to kill the ideas. And that takes persuasion, not bullets. President Trump just mapped out the persuasion solution: Evil Losers.

Quickly, name one other way you could label/insult the Losers that would be as powerful as the word Loser. You can’t do it with any other name or insult that is also repeatable in polite company.

What kinds of people join the Losers? Mostly young males. And you know what brand young males do not want on them? Right: Losers.

If you call them monsters, they like it. If you call them ISIS or ISIL they put it on a flag and wave it around. If you call them non-Muslim, it just rolls off their backs because they have Korans and stuff. Almost any other “brand” you can imagine is either inert or beneficial to Loser recruitment.

Loser is different. No one joins the Loser movement. Try at home, with your family or friends, to concoct a more effective brand poisoning than Loser. You probably can’t. Remember, your brand has to fit with future confirmation evidence. The Losers on the battlefield will continue to be losing, so the brand is engineered to get stickier over time. Your alternative idea for a brand solution has to have that quality of future confirmation too. Good luck finding a better persuasion brand.

This is not accidental. President Trump does (laugh if you will) have the best words, at least for this sort of thing. He’s proven it over and over. Just ask Jeb, Ted, and HIllary. 

As a mental experiment, imagine the CEOs of the major browser companies, including Google, Apple, Microsoft, and the open source products getting together to stop the spread of Loser propaganda. They could collectively decide to program their browsers to auto-convert ISIS or Al-Quaeda or other cool terror names to Evil Losers. If all the browser products agree, that’s all your teenager in Europe will see as he tries to self-radicalize. That would, in time, end recruitment for Losers.

An hour ago you believed there was no way to stop the spread of the ideas behind terrorism. I just told you how to do it by the end of the week. While I don’t expect the browser companies to take my suggestion, I do expect some of you will realize for the first time how winnable the war of ideas is.

So long as your Commander in Chief is also a Master Persuader.

Otherwise you’re out of luck.

America, as it turns out, has lots of luck left in it.

You haven’t seen anything yet. We’re just getting started.

You might enjoy reading my book because you are a winner.

I’m also on…

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Time to End Presidential Press Briefings?

Personally, I enjoy watching Sean Spicer spar with the press. It’s good entertainment. But press briefings don’t make sense in 2017. And they certainly don’t make sense for a Trump presidency. I’ll tell you why.

The role of press briefings is to create two complementary illusions. The first illusion is that the administration is providing new and useful information. That rarely happens. And when it does, it could have been done more easily in the form of a press release in response to a written inquiry. A written response can be faster than a press briefing because it doesn’t depend on a scheduled meeting time in the future.

The second illusion created by the press briefings is that “news” is being manufactured in that room. The reality is that artisanal “gotcha” moments are lovingly crafted by the press. That means the so-called news from press briefings is generally fake news, and that would be true no matter the administration in power.

It can be super-expensive for a news organization to do investigative journalism. It might take months to do the research and it can result in no story at all. But the gotcha questions at a press briefing are cheap, and they are the incubators of fake news that feed the media machine. That’s good for the press, but the public doesn’t need any of that, except for entertainment. 

The other big reason for eliminating press briefings is the uniqueness of President Trump. No surrogate can speak for our current president and expect to stay consistent and accurate. The president’s persuasion system involves a lot of flexibility with the facts, as well as moving people’s attention and energy where he needs it. Realistically, no surrogate can hope to match what President Trump does, or even to stay consistent with it. And as long as the president is willing to do lots of on-camera interviews, the press should get plenty of easy-to-mine news right from the source. No press briefing needed.

Imagine, instead of press briefings, the White House creates a web page to handle questions from the press. The page would give special question-asking privileges to the legitimate press, along with follow-up privileges as needed. And answers could be provided all day long, as questions arise. Some of the answers can be in the form of video clips, for easy sharing. Perhaps even the questions from reporters could be in video form. The public could weigh in on both the questions and the answers.

This system would provide faster and more precise answers from the White House. The only downsides are the press would have fewer gotcha stories, and their correspondents would have less camera time. But I think they can get over that.

You might enjoy reading my book because press briefings and communication.

I’m also on…

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The Short Attention Span President

When I am listening to advice from others, 99% of the time I exhibit a short attention span. The other 1% of the time the advice is worthy of a listen. In that rare case, I can listen all day. Given the situation I just described, would you say I have a short attention span?

Suppose you give me a briefing book with thousands of facts and I only seem to care about three of those facts. And then I succeed at whatever I’m trying to do with my three facts. Given that set of circumstances, would you say I am incompetent?

Part of the fun of watching the press cover President Trump is that they don’t have a leadership filter. Most writers and TV news people have never been leaders in super-complicated industries. President Trump has. And let me tell you a few necessary skills a leader in that situation needs to possess:

1. No patience with long explanations. If an advisor can’t put the USEFUL information in summary form, ignore and move to the next advisor.

2. Ability to know which variables are sufficient to make the decision. 

A president needs those two qualities. Otherwise, the job would overwhelm. if you are one of the advisors who doesn’t get enough attention from the president – because your explanations of things are overly wordy or useless – what message do you leak to the press?

Answer: You say President Trump has a short attention span. 

You get this same situation with almost every CEO of every large organization. In larger companies, underlings rarely think the CEO is sufficiently well-informed to make decisions. I write a comic strip about this sort of thing. It’s a universal phenomenon in large organizations.

And what happens if you are an advisor who puts together a brief that is too long and too complicated for a president with a hundred issues swirling around in his or her head? When your president skims or skips your brief, you start whispering to associates that he has no appetite for knowledge. You probably don’t leak the other explanation – that you are bad at summarizing.

Let me give you some context that might help here.

One of the patterns I observe in U.S. politics is that Democrats organize around the general concept of fairness for all people, including non-citizens. Republicans are more oriented toward the psychology of motivation. And that means you can easily put the wrong filter on your analysis of how much information a president needs before making decisions. The fairness president needs different information than the motivation president. Each would stop the learning when they had enough for their purposes, which are different.

For example, let’s say I’m a Republican president and you are trying to explain some policy options to me. As soon as you begin your description, I can see that your recommended approach would demotivate my base. That’s a non-starter. Do I need to hear the rest of your details? Skip it. Don’t need the details.

President Trump has navigated complicated business situations for decades. I’ll bet during those years he exhibited what others might label a short attention span and a low interest in details. Yet he succeeded, bigly. Same situation when he ran for president. He ignored a lot of details and won anyway.

Generally speaking, if you see a person who is a failure in life ignoring advice and eschewing knowledge, the best explanation for that situation is you are dealing with an incompetent person.

But if you hear allegations of a short attention span in someone with a multi-decade history of successfully navigating complicated industries, be open to the possibility that the messenger is pushing useless information on an executive who is good at knowing what matters and what does not.

From my limited vantage point, I can’t tell if President Trump is ignoring useful information from aides or useless information. The only thing I know for sure is that it would look the same to both of us.

Until he succeeds. 

You might enjoy reading my book because I left out all the things you don’t care about.

I’m also on…

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The Slow-Motion Assassination of President Trump

I saw this quote on today: “The episode is the latest woe for Trump, whose administration is engulfed in a series of scandals linked to Russia.”

A “series of scandals linked to Russia”? Would it be equally accurate to characterize it as a series of stories manufactured by the media, none of which have been confirmed to be a big deal?

Today’s headline news is that an alleged Comey memo indicates President Trump tried to obstruct justice in the Flynn investigation by saying to Comey in a private meeting, “I hope you can let this go.”

Key word = hope

How did the New York Times characterize Trump’s expression of hope?


Do you see Trump asking Comey to end the Flynn investigation in the quote “I hope you can let this go”?

All I see in that sentence is “duh.” Obviously Trump HOPED his friend and advisor Flynn would be okay. Did it need to be said? Was there some confusion on this point with Comey? Did Comey enter the meeting thinking maybe President Trump wanted to see his friend and advisor Flynn get eaten by the system?

I’m no lawyer, but I can’t see any judge or jury in the United States prosecuting someone for expressing a hope that the future turns out well for his friend.

Watch the headlines and pundits today transmogrify “hope” into “asked to end the Flynn investigation.”

That isn’t news.

That is an assassination.

I also think we are seeing with the recent leaks the first phase of Mutually Assured Destruction of our government. The leaks will destroy Trump if they continue. But if that happens, no Democrat and no anti-Trump Republican will ever be able to govern in the future. Payback is guaranteed. The next President to sit in the White House will be leaked to the point of ineffectiveness. And that’s how the Republic dies.

That isn’t necessarily bad news. The Republic form of government doesn’t make sense in the modern world anyway. We already evolved into a form of direct democracy via social media and polling. Our politicians can’t risk going against a big majority – even for noble reasons – because social media will organize to drive that person out of office over the issue. In effect, we are already a direct democracy. The Republic is already history, except in a technical sense.

If you can sit passively while watching the Opposition Media turn “hope” into “asked Comey to end the investigation,” you are part of the slow assassination of President Trump. And you are also part of the slow assassination of the next president, and the next. If Trump goes down from leaks, Mutually Assured Destruction kicks in automatically.

On the plus side, the public has the power and the moral authority to strip the Opposition Media of its power and take control of the government via the weight of public opinion. But that probably won’t happen because of our old friend confirmation bias. Confirmation bias makes the innocent word “hope” look like “Asked him to end the investigation.” Trump’s critics will see it that way. And if they do, your next president might be Elizabeth Warren.

She should last about two years.

You might enjoy reading my book because the Republic is a direct democracy now.

I’m also on…

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A Quick Look at President Trump and the Big Picture

Let’s take a look at the things that are going well for President Trump, and the things that are not, and see if there is a pattern. Here I will include topics that are not necessarily the president’s accomplishments or faults. I’ll simply describe the current state of things.

Things That Are Positive

The economy

Trade deals

China relations

Russia (our frenemy) is working with the U.S. on Syria, North Korea

China is putting pressure on North Korea


Healthcare progress (more to do)

Supreme Court nominee confirmed

Tax reform maybe

Optimism for an Israeli-Palestinian “deal”

Safe Zones coming along for Syrian refugees

Illegal immigration down over 70% because of Trump’s persuasion alone.

Business confidence high.

Things that are Negative

Unproven allegations of Russian collusion with Trump campaign.

Trump claims he invented the phrase “prime the pump.”

Trump tweeted a warning that Comey better be careful what he says because he might have been taped in the White House. But such recordings haven’t been confirmed. Or denied.

Critics say Trump is crazy.

Trump claimed his campaign had been “wiretapped” by Obama, but it might have been only incidental surveillance. Or not. We’ll probably never know.

Critics say Trump is a loose cannon.

Critics say “words matter” and Trump is careless with words.

Trump’s approval rating is abysmal.

There is “chaos” in the White House

Trump doesn’t study topics in detail.

Trump might fire people on his staff for various reasons.

There is in-fighting with Trump’s staff.

Trump got two scoops of ice cream when others got one.

Trump threatened to end press briefings but probably didn’t mean it.

Trump is influenced by whoever gives him the latest article that is sometimes fake news.

Trump calls the mainstream media fake news.

Trump has criticized the courts, judges, and anyone else you are not supposed to criticize as a president.

Health care didn’t get passed on the first try. And still needs work.

Trump will be impeached or jailed any day now for whatever.

Trump keeps relying on trusted family advisors such as Jared Kushner and Ivanka.

Trump fired Comey as both sides wanted, but his timing raised suspicions, and he talked about it wrong in an interview. Also didn’t coordinate with his communication staff.

Trump says things that do not pass the fact-checking.

Trump doesn’t realize that his business skills don’t translate into government. (This was the same reason people said he couldn’t win the election.)

Things that Might Be Good or Bad (Depending on your Point of View)

Trump is prioritizing jobs over climate risks in the near term.

Trump is reducing government regulations.

Trump is moving responsibility for several topics to states, per the Constitution.

Did you find the pattern?

All the important stuff is trending positive. Trump is not the sole cause of all that goodness, but he hasn’t broken anything important. That counts too. We’ve had plenty of presidents who broke stuff. Think of Nixon’s price caps, Carter’s hostage rescue mission failure, and Bush-the-younger’s Iraq war. When presidents don’t break anything, that’s a big deal

The topics that are problematic for President Trump include unconfirmed gossip, rumors, fake news, irrational worries, imaginary problems, trivial matters, and simple differences in political priorities. 

As I recently said on Twitter, President Trump’s approval rating is low, but that can be explained two ways. One explanation is that the president is not doing a good job and people can see it with their own eyes. The other explanation is that citizens are actually grading their own cognition and don’t realize it.

What’s it look like to you?

You might enjoy reading my book because of patterns.

I’m also on…

Twitter (includes Periscope): @scottadamssays​

YouTube: At this link.

Instagram: ScottAdams925

Facebook Official Page:

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How to Know You Won a Political Debate on the Internet

Do you remember the time you changed a stranger’s political opinion on the Internet by using your logic and your accurate data? 

Probably not. Because that rarely happens. If you were paying attention during the past year, you learned facts don’t matter to our decisions. We think they do, but they don’t. At least not for topics in which we are emotionally invested, such as politics.  (Obviously facts do matter to the outcomes. But not to decisions.)

So how do you win a political debate on the Internet when people refuse to change their opinions? I propose the Cognitive Dissonance test. If you can trigger your opponent into cognitive dissonance, you win. That’s usually as far as a political debate can go. Generally, you can’t change people’s minds, but you can back them into a corner and make them show a “tell” for cognitive dissonance. That’s essentially a white flag that says, “I have no logical argument, so I will say something ridiculous and act as though it is not.”

The problem with cognitive dissonance is that it can be hard to know whether your opponent is experiencing it or you are. It looks exactly the same to you. The person in the illusion can’t tell the difference. You need some sort of simple and objective sign to know when cognitive dissonance is in play and which one of you is experiencing it. And I have just that.

You can detect cognitive dissonance by the following tells:

Absurd Absolute

An absurd absolute is a restatement of the other person’s reasonable position as an absurd absolute. For example, if your point is there is high crime in Detroit, the absurd absolute would be your debate opponent saying something such as “So, you’re saying every person in Detroit is a criminal.” When your debate opponent recasts your opinion to include an “absolute” word, such as every, always, never, all, completely, universally, and the like, you are seeing cognitive dissonance. 

Some people call what I just described a strawman argument. But a strawman argument refers to any sort of inaccurate recasting of your opponent’s argument. That is the generic case. I’m referring to a specific strawman argument that uses an absurd absolute.  When your debate opponent recasts your point as an absurd absolute, you won the debate. That’s as far as you can go.


Analogies are good for explaining concepts for the first time. But they have no value in debate. Analogies are not logic, and they are not relevant facts. An analogy is literally just two things that remind you of each other on at least one dimension. When I see a cauliflower, it reminds me of a human brain, but that doesn’t mean you should eat brains in your salad. When your debate opponents retreat to analogies, it is because they have no rational arguments. You won.

There’s a reason your plumber never describes the source of your leak with an analogy. He just points to the problem and says it needs to be repaired or replaced. No one needs an analogy when facts and reason can do the job.

Attack the Messenger

When people realize their arguments are not irrational, they attack the messenger on the other side. If you have been well-behaved in a debate, and you trigger an oversized personal attack, it means you won. When people have facts and reasons in their armory, they use them first. When they run out of rational arguments, they attack the messenger. That is the equivalent of throwing the gun at the monster after you run out of bullets.

People are mean on the Internet all the time. Being an ordinary jerk might not be a tell for cognitive dissonance. But when you see an attack that seems far angrier than the situation calls for, that’s usually cognitive dissonance.

The Psychic Psychiatrist Illusion

The Psychic Psychiatrist Illusion involves imagining you can discern the inner thoughts and motives of strangers. I’m talking about the unspoken thoughts and feelings of strangers, not the things they have actually said. If your debate opponents retreat to magical thinking about their abilities to detect secret motives and mental problems in strangers from a distance, you won.

I’m not aware of any science to back my description of the tells for cognitive dissonance. But generally speaking, if your debate partner leaves the realm of fact and reason for any of the diversions I mentioned, you just won the debate. Declare victory and bow out.

You might enjoy reading my book because every person in the universe raves about it.

I’m also on…

Twitter (includes Periscope): @scottadamssays​

YouTube: At this link.

Instagram: ScottAdams925

Facebook Official Page:

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